2018 Mac Mini, Bootcamp, Win 10 20H2, eGPU, easier than expected (eventually)
Just thought I'd share a setup success ...
So I decided to have a go at setting up Bootcamp again with my 2018 Mac Mini and eGPU (Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming box). Possibly because I was curious about this whole crypto-mining thing and you can't buy a graphics card from anywhere apparently but the one I have isn't terrible (but MacOS seems to be, for mining).
The last time I tried this it was an utter nightmare - I only did it to update the firmware on the eGPU enclosure and the only way I got it to work was to take the GPU care out of it. So I never really connected the graphics card with Bootcamp.
So could it work this time?
Setting up Bootcamp was easy enough and I used the latest Windows 10 20H2 ISO image.
I installed all the Bootcamp drivers and Windows updates and everything was working (Bluetooth, WiFi etc...)
Then I read through endless topics about editing EUFI files and boot partitions and all manner of complex things ... oh, it all looked so difficult.
But then I saw a comment about _not_ having the HDMI connected straight from the Mini and ... no, it couldn't be that easy could it?
I installed the latest AMD drivers, rebooted with just the eGPU connected and it only went and worked!!
I've since installed some mining software (nicehash is easy) and modified the card BIOS to improve the hash-rate (+30 Mh/s, apparently about what the card should be capable of) and it's now adding some heat to the basement so my wife is happy (it is -35 outside right now).
So THANK YOU to whoever it was that made the comment about unplugging the HDML cable, sorry I couldn't find the exact topic again. And thanks to everyone else that shares useful information and know-how on this site.
I'm happy that my Intel Mac Mini and eGPU has a purpose, hopefully it won't feel rejected at all when a new M1 version shows up, and if it works really really hard, for many many years, it may even fund it 😉
Some extra details for anyone else trying to replicate this.
It's easier if you setup Windows to auto-login. A couple of times I had to login "blind" to continue the driver setup (kudos to AMD though for their driver install that can remove old drivers and then install the new ones, with no interaction). But I needed to sign in to have that happen and initially had the "PIN Number" method with a Microsoft account. The trick was to make a note of how long it took to boot (using the integrated graphics, mine took about 30 seconds to get to the login screen) and then add another 10 seconds for safety, tap a key, wait 5 seconds (to let the signin form show) and enter the PIN.
Bootup is always blind with the eGPU because of how and when Windows initializes the devices. But the screen comes on to show the login screen if you still have that enabled. This is all with ONLY the eGPU plugged in - if you have the inbuilt HDMI plugged in then you have the error 12 or other issues to deal with. I found it easier to save doing all that.
For the mining itself, it only ran at about 8 MH/s out of the box with the latest drivers. While they do have a "mining optimized" driver, it's old and there is a "compute mode" option in the latest. It didn't show up for me in the GUI but you can set it with a registry key. That should put things at about 28 MH/s with the latest drivers.
You can get another 2 MH/s or so by flashing the BIOS with a custom ROM to optimize the memory timings. That's probably the scariest bit, but there were plenty of examples and walkthroughs of how to do it.
The rest is tweaking the graphics card OC settings (actually, underclock the core and lower the voltages, and up the memory speeds which makes the difference to mining). Combined with some parameters to tweak the mining software itself this brought things up to 32 MH/s. That's using Phoenix miner which worked best of all the ones I tried (via nicehash is super-simple).
With these tweaks the power usage goes down to about 80W which saves heat and noise.
Right now it's earning about $5 per day on average which is sweet.